Dallas City of Learning Partners: Moorland and Oak Cliff YMCA

Established: The Moorland Family YMCA opened its doors in 1928; the Oak Cliff Family YMCA began in 1931.

About: For over 125 years, the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas has made accessible the support and opportunities that empower people and communities. With a focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the YMCA nurtures the potential of every youth and teen, improves the nation’s health and well-being, and provides opportunities to give back and support neighbors. The Y Achievers Academy, established in 2013 and based at the Moorland YMCA, is an eight-week, full day educational enrichment and leadership development summer learning program for low-income teens in 6-10 grades. The program blends STEM academics with arts, wellness, leadership activities and cultural enrichment. The Urban Swim Initiative at the Oak Cliff YMCA has spent more than a decade teaching minority children how to swim and showing them water safety. Nearly 60 percent of minority children cannot swim and are almost three times more likely to drown than their Anglo counterparts. The Urban Swim Initiative aims to decrease the number of swim related fatalities in minority communities.

Why is Summer Learning So Important?

“Summer learning programs have the potential to help children and youth improve their academic learning and other outcomes,” says Keith Vinson, Vice President of Operations, YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. “This is especially true for children from low-income families who might not have access to educational resources throughout the summer months, and for low-achieving students who need additional time to master academic content. During summer vacation, many students lose knowledge and skills. By the end of summer, students perform, on average, one month behind where they left off in the spring. Of course, not all students experience ‘average’ losses. Summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income students. While all students lose some ground in mathematics over the summer, low-income students lose more ground in reading, while their higher-income peers may even gain. Most disturbing is that summer learning loss is cumulative; over time, the difference between the summer learning rates of low-income and higher-income students contributes substantially to the achievement gap. The Y Achievers Academy helps to curve the achievement gap by offering STEM related programming along with other career development offerings.”

Why Partner with Dallas City of Learning?

“The YMCA partners with DCOL to help expand opportunities for youth to engage in opportunities that will teach lifelong skills,” says Vinson. “This is especially important because of the community we serve. During the summer, the programs we offer help children and youth improve their academic learning and help to close the achievement gap. Many children we serve do not always have access to educational resources and need additional time to master academic content.”

How Does Participating with Dallas City of Learning Benefit YMCA Kids?

“Partnering with DCoL has helped the Moorland Y expand the offering to teens,” says Vinson. “The partnership has allowed the kids to experience digital photography. In many cases, the teens are operating a DSLR camera for the first time. They are being taught how to get a creative eye for taking pictures. They are learning the power of the camera and how they can create a business now by using the camera.”

What is Your Vision and Passion for the Future of Education?

“Basic education enables communities to make progress in most areas of human, economic and social development,” says Vinson. “It is the essential ingredient for success. Education provides us with knowledge about the world. It paves the way for a good career. It helps build character. It leads to enlightenment. It lays the foundation of a stronger nation. It makes a person complete. With education, people are free to make decisions in an informed way to cause positive change. The Y Achievers Academy equips teens with knowledge that they can utilize now to make healthy decisions.”

— Mario Tarradell